• Short Summary

    South African authorities have exonerated the police from blame for the deaths of detainees in police custody after a recent investigation.

  • Description

    CU: South African Police Justice and Prison Minister, James Kruger, speaking to reporter - Capetown, South Africa.

    Bureau of State Security Chief General Hendrick van den Bergh speaking to reporter.

    KRUGER: "As far as the police is concerned, the suicides normally take place at an interrogation. Now the police have very strict orders, standing orders, as far as interrogating prisoners is concerned, how to look after them, how to see that they don't commit suicide. But again it's virtually impossible to stop. We have put bars on the windows of all the interrogating rooms. But particularly in the last eight months, we have had so many interrogations that we, of necessity, had to use rooms without bars. And you can well imagine that we can't handcuff a man to a policeman, simple reason if he goes down the stairs or goes out of the window, he takes the policeman with him. It just isn't possible. We do everything in our power to try and stop a suicide, but I'm afraid if a person really wants to commit suicide, there's really little you can do about it."

    REPORTER: "You said on previous occasions that the South African Communist party has ordered their members rather to commit suicide than to betray the organisation. Do you think some of these cases can be linked to this party order?"

    KRUGER: "Oh yes, there's no doubt that in some of the cases we were dealing with the hard-core terrorist organisations. And I'm personally satisfied, and the conclusion can be reached, that these people were in actual fact committing suicide according to instructions rather than be interrogated."

    VAN DEN BURG: "It is most decidedly in the interests of the investigator, or call him interrogator if you wish, to keep his informant alive and well. In most of these cases, the detainee has by then already made a clean breast of things, indeed has told his story. They have identified further co-conspirators, if there are any and with the organisation, within or with which they are associated. If they were to commit suicide, then of course the investigators can never use his statement again, not after he's dead. So by committing suicide, in effect, he would halt testimony which could have been completed. My own view of the (indistinct) is that the detainee who commits suicide is one who, having made a statement of his own involvement, realised that the charges against him are much more serious than what he had thought. He is surprised and shocked, not because of what he has told the interrogators during the investigation, but at the detailed knowledge that the interrogator had of the conspiracy of his deeds. Probably he was sick at his own state that he did not have the guts to take what was coming to him, either in the way of sentence or perhaps to face the people that he had betrayed."

    Initials RH/MF/PNG/0225

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: South African authorities have exonerated the police from blame for the deaths of detainees in police custody after a recent investigation. The head of the Bureau of State Security, General Hendrik van den Bergh, said that it was 'most decidedly in the interests of police interrogators' that detainees remained alive. The South African Justice and Police Minister, Mr James Kruger, has also exonerated the police, saying some of the detainees had committed suicide rather than betray the Communist Party cause. At least 16 detainees have died in police custody in the past year. Mr Kruger and General van den Bergh have publicly commented on the incidents.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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